Friday, December 26, 2014

Japan Greatest All-time team

Japan 1998
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Before the 1990's, football was not a big sport in Japan.  In 1992, however, Japan won the Asian Cup and became a power in Asia.  With the formation of J-League in 1993, football gained ground in Japan.  In the same year, they almost qualified for the WC Finals in United States. However, they surrendered a 90th minute goal to Iraq that gave South Korea the final berth to the WC Finals.  The match was known as the "Agony of Doha".  Japan finally qualified for the WC in 1998 and went on to qualify for all of the following WC Finals at the time of writing.  In both 2002 and 2010, they advanced to the second round of the WC Finals.

If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be 23 players I would bring to the tournament.

GK: Eiji Kawashima 川島 永嗣
Kawashima played in Japan for Omiya Ardija, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Kawasaki Frontale before joining Lierse S.K. in Belgium in 2010. He then played for another Belgian club, Standard Liège, from 2012 to 2015, and Dundee United in Scotland from 2015 to 2016. He played for Japan at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
GK: Seigo Narazaki 楢﨑 正剛
He was named in 4 straight WC team, but he started only in 2002.  n 1995, he joined J. League side Yokohama Flügels. He became the No. 1 GK for the club in August of that season. His first professional appearance came on 16 August 1995 in a league match against Bellmare Hiratsuka. He contributed to the club winning the Emperor's Cup in 1998. When Flügels was merged with cross-town Yokohama Marinos in 1999, he was signed by Nagoya Grampus Eight. He was again a member of the Emperor's Cup winning side in 1999 but this time with Nagoya.

GK: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi 川口 能活
Kawaguchi was the most talented Japanese goalkeeper.  He was named in 4 straight World Cup teams.  He was the starter for France 1998 and South Africa 2006.  He spent most of his career playing at home, but spent a brief stint with Portsmouth in the English First Division.  He had 116 caps.  

RB: Atsuto Uchida 内田 篤人
Atsuto Uchida played with Kashima Anthlers before joining Schalke 04 in 2010. He has been playing for Schalke 04 for the past 5 seasons.  He was on the Bundesliga team of the Year for the season 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.  He went to both World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014. He also played Union Berlin before returning to Japan in 2018.
Atsuto Uchida 

RB/DM/CB: Takumi Horiike 堀池 巧
Takumi Horiike started his career with Yomiuri.  After the formation of J-League, he spent most of his career with Shimizu S-Pulse. He was capped 58 times and scored 2 goals for the Japanese national team between 1986 and 1995.  He missed out the World Cup Finals of 1994 after Japan failed to qualify at the last minute.

CB: Masami Ihara 井原 正巳
Masami Ihara was the Asian player of the Year in 1995.  He was at one point Japan's all-time leading appearance record holder with 122. He led Japan to its first ever World Cup Finals in 1998. He was a star in the J-League throughout the 1990's.  He spent most of his career with Yokohama Marinos.  Later, Ihara played for Jublio Iwata and Urawa Reds.
Masami Ihara 

CB: Maya Yoshida 吉田 麻也
Maya Yoshida started his career with Grampus Eight Nagoya.  Since 2012, he has played or Southampton.  He also played for VVV Velo in Holland. He was the captain of Japan's Olympic team in 2012.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2014. He had 80 caps at the time of writing. 

CB: Yuji Nakazawa 中沢 佑二
Yuji Nakazawa went to Brazil as a youngster.  He returned to Japan, and played for Verdy Kawasaki and Yokohama Marinos.  He went to both World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2010.  He had 110 caps between 1999 and 2010. He was one of seven Japanese players to earn over 100 caps between 1999 and 2010.  His nickname is "Bomber" because of his distinctive hairstyle.

CB: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto 宮本 恒靖
Miyamoto played  71 times for Japan and led the Japanese national team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as the 2000 and 2004 Asian Cup.  He played for Gamba Osaka before moving to play for Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Miyamoto also captained Gamba Osaka during their 2005 J1 League championship season.

 LB:  Yuto Nagatomo 長友 佑都
Yuto Nagatomo  started his career with FC Tokyo. He is known for his offensive skills.  He joined Cesena in 2010.  Since 2011, he was a starter with Inter Milan.  He can also play as a rightback.  In 20918, he joined Galatasaray in Turkey.  He collected over 100 caps for Japan. He played in the World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014.  He won the Asian Cup in 2011.
Yuto Nagatomo 

LB: Satoshi Tsunami 都並 敏史
Tsunami was a product of Yomiuri (current Tokyo Verdy) youth system. He played for Japan Soccer League side Yomiuri Club, which was transformed to Verdy Kawasaki when J1 League was founded, between 1980 and 1996. Toward the end of his career, he played for Avispa Fukuoka (1996–1997) and Bellmare Hiratsuka (1997–1998).He was capped 80 times before 1982 and 1995.

CM: Ruy Ramos ラモス瑠偉
Ruy Ramos was one of the first foreign players in Japanese professional soccer, joining Yomiuri (later Verdy Kawasaki, now Tokyo Verdy) in 1977 at the age of 20. He was an important member of the Japanese national team during their unsuccessful 1994 World Cup qualification, eventually retiring from the game in 1998 at the age of 41.
Ruy Ramos

CM: Yasuhito Endō 遠藤 保仁
Yasuhito Endo was a hero at Gamba Osaka.  In 2011, he became the first J. League player to be named in the J. League Best Eleven 9 times. In 2009, he was named "Player of the Year" by the Asian Football Confederation. He is Japan's most capped players with 152 caps.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

CM: Yasuhiko Okudera 奥寺 康彦
When soccer was still an amatuer sport in Japan, Okudera made his way to Germany.  He played with FC Klon and Werder Bremen in the 1980's. Okudera was the first Japanese footballer to play professionally in Europe, as well as being the first Asian football player to score in the European Cup, while playing for 1. FC Köln in the 1979 semi-final match against Nottingham Forest F.C. and made 32 appearances – scoring nine goals – with the Japanese national team.

AM: Kazushi Kimura 木村 和司
Kazushi Kimura was a star midfielder in the 1980's.  He was Japan's Player of the Year in 1983, 1984 and 1989.  He played for Nissan Motors before the foundation of J-League. The club became Yokohama F. Marinos in 1993, where he played three more seasons.  He earned 54 caps for the Japanese national team.

AM: Shunsuke Nakamura 中村 俊輔
Shunsuke Nakamura was a star player at Celtics.  He won the SPF Player of the year and SFWA Player of the Year in 2007.  Before that, Nakamura began his professional career with J1 League club Yokohama Marinos in 1997.  Later,  he played with Reggina in Serie A.  After he left Celtic, he played briefly for Espanyol. He played in three WC Finals, but he was not selected for the WC in 2002 at home. 
Shunsuke Nakamura 
AM:  Hidetoshi Nakata 中田 英寿
Nakata was the first Japanese player who reached stardom in Europe.  He scored 10 goals in his first season with Perugia.  He had a successful substitute role with Roma, but he never settled down after his first season.  He also played with Parma, Fiorentina and Bologna.  He later went to play in England with Bolton Wanderers. He picked up 77 caps.  He went to three World Cup Finals: 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Hidetoshi Nakata 

AM: Keisuke Honda 本田 圭佑
Honda is the current star of the Japanese national team.  He played domestic football in Holland and Russia before making a dream move to Serie A's AC Milan in 2014. Since 2017, he played in Mexico for C.F. Pachuca. Since 2008, he has been a regular member of the national team. He played in two World Cup Finals: 2010 and 2014. He also won the Asian Cup in 2011.

AM Shinji Kagawa 香川 真司
Kagawa began his professional career in his homeland with Cerezo Osaka before joining Borussia Dortmund in 2010. After two years with Dortmund, Kagawa signed for Manchester United on a four-year contract. Two years later, he returned to Dortmund, where again he was a star player. Since 2008, he has over 90 caps. He was a member of the 2014 WC team while controversially left off the 2010 team.
Shinji Kagawa 

FW: Ryuichi Sugiyama 杉山 隆一
Ryuichi Sugiyama played for Japan national team from 1961 to 1971.  He won the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He also participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and scored 2 goals.  He spent his entire career with Mitsubishi.  He was Japanese Football Player of the Year three times: 1964, 1969, 1973.

FW:  Kazuyoshi Miura 三浦 知良
Miura became the first Japanese footballer to play in Italy, joining Genoa for 1994-1995.  He was the Asian Player of the Year in 1993.  Despite being the best Japanese player in the 1990's, he never played in the WC Finals.  He was not selected for the 1998 WC in France. He had 89 caps. On 5 March 2017, Miura became the oldest ever player to feature in a professional match when he started in Yokohama's 1–1 draw against V-Varen Nagasaki. 
Kazuyoshi Miura 

ST: Masashi Nakayama 中山 雅史
In 1998, Masashi Nakayama scored the first goal for Japan in the history of the World Cup.  He spent most of his career with Jublio Iwata, a powerful team at the time. He won three J-League titles in 1997, 1999 and 2002.   He retired in December 2012 at age 45 after playing 3 seasons for Consadole Sapporo.  Since 2015, he is on the book of  Azul Claro Numazu in Japan Football League.

ST:  Kunishige Kamamoto  釜本 邦茂
Kunishige Kamamoto won the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics, finishing as the tournament's top scorer with seven goals. He is often considered to be the greatest Japanese football player of all-time.  He played his entire career with Yanmar Diesel(Cerezo Osaka), being the Japan Soccer League's top scorer 6 times with his club. He served as a member of the House of Councillors between 1995 and 2001.
Kunishige Kamamoto 

Honorable Mention
Naohiro Takahara 高原 直泰, Hisashi Kato 加藤 久, Naoki Soma 相馬 直樹, Alex 三都主, Makoto Hasebe 長谷部 誠, Shinji Okazaki岡崎 慎司 , Takuya Takagi 高木 琢也 .

Squad Explanation
-- Despite Japan's poor performance at the WC 2014 in Brazil, the current generation of Japanese players are among the best ever.  I included 5 players from the 2014 team.   
-- Before the 1990's, the standard of Japanese football was very good.  Kunishige Kamamoto and Yasuhiko Okudera were the two big names.  They were well-known outside Japan, Kazushi Kimura was very good midfielder.

Starting lineup
Formation 4-2-1-3
  • I prefer Kawashima over Kawaguchi, whom I believed to have too many his lapse.
  • Nakata started on the right, but I could easily give that position to Miura.

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